A government initiative proclaiming that how children are disciplined in school results in a higher chance they will wind up in prison, which is not congruent with the truth that how children behave in school, can often be determinative in their propensity for winding up in prison.
An article from City Journal examines this new initiative.
“In March 2010, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that his department was “going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement.” The secretary was speaking on the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when state troopers savagely beat and teargassed peaceful voting-rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. Duncan fleetingly acknowledged the racial progress that the nation had made since that shameful era, but he was soon back in the 1960s: “Skeptics sometimes tell me, ‘Slow down.’ They say our agenda to pursue equal opportunity is too ambitious. To them, I simply repeat what Martin Luther King said many years ago: ‘We can’t wait.’ I repeat what President Lyndon Johnson said after Bloody Sunday, when he told a joint session of Congress: ‘We have already waited a hundred years and more—and the time for waiting is gone.’ ”
“President Johnson was calling on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act in order to end the South’s century-long obstruction of black suffrage. What was the pervasive racial injustice that led Duncan to present himself as a modern-day Johnson? Black elementary and high school students are disciplined at a higher rate than whites are. To Duncan, that disparity can mean only one thing: schools are discriminating.
“And so the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe. But the country will pay a high price for the feds’ blindness, as the cascade of red tape and lawsuits emanating from Washington will depress student achievement and enrich advocates and attorneys for years to come.
“This past March, Duncan released some newly gathered national discipline data. The “undeniable truth,” he said, was that the “everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity.” The massive media coverage of Duncan’s report trumpeted the discipline disparity—blacks were three and a half times more likely to get suspended or expelled than their white peers—as convincing evidence of widespread discrimination. (The fact that white boys were over two times as likely to be suspended as Asian and Pacific Islander boys was discreetly ignored, though it would seem to imply antiwhite bias as well.)
“The Department of Education has launched investigations of at least five school systems because of their disparate black-white discipline rates. The Department of Justice has already put the Barnwell, South Carolina, school district under a costly consent decree, complete with a pricey outside consultant, and is seeking similar control of other districts. The theory behind this school discipline push is what Obama officials and civil rights advocates call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to this conceit, harsh discipline practices—above all, suspensions—strip minority students of classroom time, causing them to learn less, drop out of school, and eventually land in prison.
“The feds have reached their conclusions, however, without answering the obvious question: Are black students suspended more often because they misbehave more? Arne Duncan, of all people, should be aware of inner-city students’ self-discipline problems, having headed the Chicago school system before becoming secretary of education. Chicago’s minority youth murder one another with abandon. Since 2008, more than 530 people under the age of 21 have been killed in the city, mostly by their peers, according to the Chicago Reporter; virtually all the perpetrators were black or Hispanic. In 2009, the widely publicized beating death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert by his fellow students sent Duncan hurrying back to the Windy City, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, to try to contain the fallout in advance of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (see “Chicago’s Real Crime Story,” Winter 2010). Between September 2011 and February 2012, 25 times more black Chicago students than white ones were arrested at school, mostly for battery; black students outnumbered whites by four to one. (In response to the inevitable outcry over the arrest data, a Chicago teacher commented: “I feel bad for kids being arrested, . . . but I feel worse seeing a kid get his head smashed on the floor and almost die. Or a teacher being threatened with his life.”) So when Duncan lamented, upon the release of the 2012 discipline report, that “some of the worst [discipline] discrepancies are in my hometown of Chicago,” one could only ask: What does he expect?
“Nationally, the picture is no better. The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly ten times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined. Such data make no impact on the Obama administration and its orbiting advocates, who apparently believe that the lack of self-control and socialization that results in this disproportionate criminal violence does not manifest itself in classroom comportment as well.”